Graduating from an American university may grant you numerous privileges, but may also affect the duration of your legal US residence. Completing your studies may mean that your F-1 is about to expire soon. What are your options?
First, you should plan a meeting with an immigration attorney who will be able to evaluate your specific case and suggest effective solutions.
The good news is that there are several options that students with an expired visa may pursue, and they should be able to renew their legal status without problems if they obtain the right legal help.
After they graduate, students may apply for an ’’extension’’ of their F-1 status, called OPT (Optional Practice Training). An OPT allows students to legally work in the United States for the period of up to one full year. One condition of an OPT is that the employment be work in an area directly related to their academic field, but may be with any employer, and does not require a specific job offer prior to application. Students may apply for an OPT up to 90 days before they finish their program of study. After their OPT expires, students can enroll in university for an advanced degree (Master’s, MBA or PhD) and obtain another F-1 visa.
If they find a qualified position at a US company, they may apply for a temporary work visa (H-1B). The H-1B visa is renewable, up to six years, may include multiple employers, and may be indefinitely renewed under certain circumstances, where permanent residence is sought. Keep in mind that there are tight deadlines concerning the H1B process and one must consult an experienced immigration attorney in advance to understand what type of documentation you must prepare. It is imperative that you submit all necessary documents before the applicable deadline. H1B has a yearly cap of 65,000 but this restriction may be dependent on your education level. Graduate students fall into a different visa cap category, and if you work for a non-profit organization or institution of higher learning, you will most likely be exempt from this restriction.
While in H1B status, your employer may elect to file an application for Permanent Residence based on the job offered, your qualifications, educational achievement and level of experience or expertise.
This area of Immigration Law is particularly complex. Always consult an experienced immigration attorney to better understand your options.